With the 2013 berry season winding down, the organizers of a local labor committee have begun to get desperate and resort to telling outrageous lies and conducting publicity stunts with the hopes of generating negative attention on Sakuma Brothers Farms. Unfortunately, the efforts to generate publicity are being directed at an 85-year old family-owned business with a long history of providing its employees with the best wages and work environment possible. Here are the facts about the current labor situation at Sakuma Brothers Farms:
FACT: Sakuma Brothers Farms pays all seasonal berry pickers – both foreign and domestic workers – a guaranteed $12.00 per hour plus an incentivized piece rate and housing. Sakuma Brothers Farms wages are among the highest wages paid in the industry and higher than the State of Washington’s minimum wage of $9.19 per hour and Seattle’s living wage of $9.64 per hour. As hourly employees continue to advance in the company and reach certain pay grades, they become eligible for vacation, sick leave and health benefits. Eligible employees can also participate in the company’s 401(k) program.
FACT: There have been no layoffs or terminations at Sakuma Brothers Farms with the exception of Ramon Torres who was fired on September 12, 2013, following his arrest for domestic abuse for beating his wife.
FACT: Ramon Torres, the president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, was arrested by Skagit County Sheriffs on August 30 for assaulting his wife (Case Number COOO62705) at the farm workers camp at Sakuma Brothers Farms. According to the arrest report, Torres had pushed his wife, Deanna Torres, as well as “hit and pulled (her) the previous day.”
FACT: A “no-contact” order was filed against Ramon Torres by Skagit County on September 2 which was intended to prevent him from having any contact with his wife. Given that Torres currently lived at the farm workers camp, Sakuma Brothers Farms had a responsibility to provide a safe environment to all of the children and adults living in the camp and made the decision to fire Torres and remove the potential threat from the property.
FACT: Sakuma Brothers Farms have not violated any agreement between the company and the workers. There was an agreement signed as part of the negotiated resolution process in mid-August between the workers and Sakuma Brothers Farms that stated that farm workers “will not be fired due to participation or association with the Committee and the negotiated resolution process or the labor actions that preceded the negotiated resolution process.” That signed agreement did not infringe upon the Company’s right to enforce valid work-related policies, property rights, legal requirements and disciplinary procedures such as responding to the no-contact order against Torres.
FACT: This agreement was breached by the workers when the workers committee abruptly called off mediation and announced their boycott of berries from Sakuma Brothers Farms.